You’re Not Listening


We’d parked in a garage a block over and didn’t speak on the way. She waited until we got to the car to ask me:

“Where did you learn that?”

“I watched videos,” I told her.

“Sign me something you learned. Something tricky.”

I signed her name. I signed mine. I signed Us.

.           .           .

She helped me learn some new signs, and we practiced.

“Stop it,” she told me when my signing was clumsy. “Watch me first. Watch my hands and expressions. You use your arms and your hands and your face.”

.           .           .

On a morning in March, I took a call from the hospital. There’d been an accident, a woman told me, and Madison had been treated for her injuries. She needed someone to pick her up.

I met Madison in the waiting room.

“I shouldn’t have come here,” she told me. “There wasn’t anything wrong with me, but the police talked me into it. They thought maybe I’d broken an arm or something, but look at this.”

She moved her arms in a spasm-dance.

“Nothing wrong with them,” she said. “Nothing wrong with anything. Just some cuts and bruises.”

She showed me the abrasions on her elbows and the knee that she’d skinned.

“I didn’t do anything wrong,” she said. “I was on my bicycle, and that clown in his Camry didn’t see me, I guess, and he ran over my bike, and it’s ruined. I’ll have to buy a new bike, and I’ll have hospital bills, and I have cuts on my hands and my elbows.”

“But nothing’s broken.”

“I told you: my bike.”

I took her home, and we ate, and we waited. The doctors were concerned about a concussion, so I stayed with her and sat on tub-edge as she took a long bath in Epsom salts. She showed me the bruise on her buttocks—a bruise as wide as two hands.

“It’s kind of sore,” she said. “I’ll sleep on my stomach.”

“That bruise looks bad.”

“It’s a dangerous world.”